Ahmet Ağaoğlu

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Ahmet Ağaoğlu
Ahmet Agaoglu.jpg
Born December 1869 (1869-12)
Russian Empire Shusha, Elisabethpol Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 19 May 1939(1939-05-19) (aged 69–70)
Turkey Istanbul, Turkey
Resting place Feriköy Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey
Occupation Writer, author, politician
Nationality Azerbaijani

Ahmet Ağaoğlu, also known as Ahmed bey Agayev (Azerbaijani: Əhməd bəy Ağayev; 1869–1939) was a prominent Azerbaijani and Turkish publicist and journalist. He was recognized as one of the founders of pan-Turkism.[1]


Ahmed Ağaoğlu was born in December 1869 to a Shia Muslim family in the town of Shusha, of the Elisabethpol Governorate [2][3] then controlled by the Russian Empire. His father Mirza Hassan was a wealthy cotton farm owner of Qurteli tribe, and his mother, Taze Khanum, was of the semi-nomadic Sariji Ali tribe.[4]

In 1888, he arrived in Paris and came under the influence of French Orientalists like Ernest Renan and James Darmesteter on Persiano-centricism. He was a well-educated person of his time, who had graduated from the Universities in Saint Petersburg and the Sorbonne University in Paris. He was also a famous journalist, who spoke fluently in five languages and therefore, wrote articles on current affairs for many popular newspapers in the country and abroad.

He returned to the Caucasus in 1894 teaching French, to then leave for Baku to contribute in the formation of a national identity. He wrote monographs in various subjects. It was during that period that he took a different position than the French Orientalists he was influenced from and began embracing Turkish identity.

Ahmed bey Ağaoğlu considered the cultural and educational progress to be the major provision for the national liberation. He viewed the emancipation of women as part of this struggle. Thus, Ağaoğlu was the first member of the Azeri national intelligentsia to raise his voice for the equal rights for women. In his book "Woman in the Islamic World" published in 1901, he claimed that "without women liberated, there can be no national progress".

Ağaoğlu was chosen from Baku as one of the represents of the Muslims of Trancaucasia and played an important role in prevention of ethnic clashes between Armenians and Azeris in 1905. Along with Nasib-bey Yusifbeyli, Ağaoğlu became a founder of "Difai" (Defender) National Committee in Ganja, which in 1917 merged with the Turkic Party of Federalists and Musavat into a single party.

Fleeing police persecution and possible imprisonment, in late 1908, during the Young Turk revolution in the Ottoman Empire, Ağaoğlu moved to Istanbul.[5] Along with other émigrés from the Russian Empire, like the pan-Turkist writers Yusuf Akçura and Ali bey Huseynzade, he became a key figure in the Turkish movement led by Akçura’s journal Türk Yurdu ("Turkish Homeland") and in the Türk Ocağı ("Turkish Hearth") movement, becoming its president. With increasing influence in the CUP regime, in late 1915, he became a deputy advocating the Ottoman expansion policies to unite all Turkic nations.[citation needed]

Upon the establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in May 1918, Ağaoğlu returned to Azerbaijan. He took up Azerbaijani citizenship, was elected to the Parliament (Milli Mejlis) and was chosen to represent ADR at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. This mission was not carried out, however, due to his imprisonment by the British in 1919.[5]

After the Soviet take over, Ağaoğlu had to leave the country. He moved to Ankara, Turkey and continued his journalistic and political activities there, working as the director of the press bureau, the editor-in-chief of the official newspaper Hâkimiyet-i Milliye ("National Sovereignty"), and as a close adviser of Atatürk,- the founder of the modern Turkish Republic. Speaking in support of Westernization and secularization of Turkish society, he wrote in 1928:

If the West is superior in the material then it is due to its totality - its virtues and its vices. The Eastern system is permeated by religion at all levels and this brought decline, while secularization of the West brought superiority. If we want to survive we have to secularize our view of religion, morality, social relations, and law. This is possible only by accepting openly and unconditionally the mind as well as the behavior of the civilization which we are bound to imitate.[6]

Ağaoğlu died in 1939 in Turkey. He was laid to rest at the Feriköy Cememtery in Istanbul.


  1. ^ Khalid, Adeeb (1998). The politics of Muslim cultural reform: Jadidism in Central Asia. University of California Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-520-21356-2. 
  2. ^ A. Holly Shissler, "Excerpts from Ahmet Ağaoğlu's The Turkish World, 1912-1913", in Camron Michael Amin, Benjamin C. Fortna, Elizabeth Brown Frierson, The Modern Middle East: A Sourcebook for History, Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-19-926209-0, P. 344.
  3. ^ Ada Holly Shissler. Between Two Empires: Ahmet Agaoglu and the New Turkey, I.B.Tauris, 2003, p. 43
  4. ^ Ada Holly Shissler. open citation, p. 44
  5. ^ a b Ada Holly Shissler. open citation, p. 3
  6. ^ Betram, Carel (2008). Imagining the Turkish house: collective visions of home. University of Texas Press. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-292-71826-5.